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1994: Disaster recovery
Paul Ashley arrived at the Mull of Kintyre Chinook crash site on 3 June 1994, the day after the accident.

As a member of the Royal Air Force Regiment - the RAF's ground-fighting corps - it was his job to help manage crash scenes of downed military aircraft.

Sergeant Ashley remained at the Mull of Kintyre site for five days and received a commendation for his work after the disaster.

I flew out to the crash site with five other personnel early on 3 June. We had trouble landing as the cloud was low and there was limited space to put the aircraft on the ground.

The mist and smell of aviation fuel made it feel like something out of a film

When we were dropped off the civil police took me and the others up to a tent that had been erected the previous night.

The police and RAF Mountain Rescue were deployed around the area to prevent people getting to the site and taking what might be vital evidence to the investigation.

The mist and smell of aviation fuel made it feel like something out of a film - it was a horrible, sad place to be.

My task was initially to set up a cordon around the crash site and relieve those who had come on duty 12 to 14 hours earlier.

It soon became apparent that the number of personnel we had was insufficient, and a request was sent back to provide more manpower.

Grieving relatives

Sixty extra young airmen and airwomen arrived at RAF Machrihanish and were briefed on what had happened and what their task was to be.

These 60 people were responsible for identifying any human remains that were on the ground.

My task quickly turned from looking after the crash crew to that and more, and I became the liaison senior non-commissioned officer for all those who came to the site.

It had been one of the worst experiences of my life - but the worst was when they allowed the families in to look at the site of where their loved ones died.

A lady with shoulder length blonde hair wearing a short red coat stopped by our vehicle. When she got out of the car the lady looked at us and said, "Thank you and please thank everyone for me."

That did it for me and I had to walk away so as not to show the tears that were running down my face.

I will never forget the incident and nor will I ever forget those words.

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Chinook Helicopter
The RAF have used the distinctive Chinook helicopters since 1980


Paul Ashley in 2003
Paul Ashley was responsible for securing the cordon round the crash site
In Context
Paul Ashley joined the RAF Regiment in 1972.

His varied career included stints as an infantry soldier, surface-to-air missile operator and hostage survival trainer.

Mr Ashley retired from the RAF in August 2000.

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